I remember very clearly the day MilkWorks became a dream. Melissa Folsom, one of our founders, was breastfeeding her third child. She was struggling with a yeast overgrowth. The two of us were lamenting the lack of support for breastfeeding mothers in our community. Even though we were both busy taking care of our children, we ended the conversation by saying, “We have to make this happen!”
Almost 18 years later, MilkWorks continues to be the dream we envisioned. Even though our babies are grown (and some of my babies now have babies), mothers have not outgrown the need for what we do. I recently took a three month leave of absence. When I returned, I asked each of our 40 staff members what MilkWorks means to them. They could not have said it better.
Becky, one of our Omaha Breastfeeding Educators (fondly known as our BEs), spoke of the need for mothers to have a safe place to learn how to be a mother. She said that when her daughter was born, she felt like an imposter. She was afraid that someone would find out how little she knew about mothering. Becky’s goal is to make sure mothers feel safe and welcome at MilkWorks, and feel empowered to care for their babies without judgement.
Colleen was a client at MilkWorks with her three babies and now works as a BE in Lincoln. She and her husband have a ministry which serves community members at 27 and O street in Lincoln. Colleen is passionate about being here for vulnerable families who may not have access to other support services. Colleen shared, “I was a mother who did not have a lot of resources and you took care of me. I want to do that for other moms and babies.”
Ashley, an Omaha BE, loves working in an environment where mothers come together to support each other. Throughout history and throughout the world, mothers have created villages to care for their children and themselves. It is not uncommon to find Ashley carrying a mother’s older child in a baby carrier during a consult. That is what MilkWorks means to Ashley.
Most of our staff love working at MilkWorks because they want to provide direct care to mothers. They answer breastfeeding questions, lead our moms groups, help with weight checks, grab a Kleenex when tears flow, reassure a new dad, problem solve a baby’s weight loss or find solutions for sore nipples. They love being here for families and their passion is what we are all about.
There is another side to MilkWorks that is less visible, but just as important. Our “invisible” staff develop relationships with our pumps vendors, order breastfeeding products and clinical supplies, collect data, assess our programs, write grants, pay our bills, make sure our snow gets shoveled, file insurance claims and negotiate insurance contracts. One of our newest MilkWomen recently called this “seeing how the sausage gets made".
This fall, I realized more than ever that our staff mean as much to me as our clients do. We are all in this together - whether we are calling MilkWorks in tears because we need help, we want MilkWorks to be here for all moms, or we get the pleasure of meaningful work. Together we create a support system for each other and fulfill a mission of helping our babies feel safe and well nourished.
I want MilkWorks to always have knowledgeable and loving staff to work with each new mom who comes to us for help. Like many non-profits, our wages are modest. Although our work environment provides non-monetary benefits like flexible and part time work hours, we must be able to pay reasonable wages to retain our quality staff members.
While our most important work is taking care of families, we also pay close attention to ending the year in the black. This enables us to invest in our staff. We depend greatly upon the generosity of community members who want to see MilkWorks continue as a valuable resource for new mothers.
To make a year end, or any time donation to MilkWorks, visit our online donation site.
Thank you for creating a healthy MilkWorks, so that we can create a healthier community for all of us!